Microwave Journal
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The Wireless Home Network: Room for Multiple Wireless Technologies?

December 1, 2002

According to a report by In-Stat/MDR, over the last three years, a very rapid wireless evolution has occurred in the home. In 1999 and 2000, the question was whether HomeRF or 802.11 would win in the home.


In 2001, the main issue was whether 802.11a (5 GHz Wi-Fi) or 802.11g (2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, higher speed version of 802.11b) would be the technology of choice for the connected home of the future. In 2002, the wireless home landscape has broadened, with a handful of solid wireless technologies showing significant potential for specific applications in the home.

The vision of wireless home networking in the future involves the PC cluster of devices (broadband modem, router/AP device, desktops, laptops, PDAs, Web tablets) becoming wirelessly connected to the entertainment cluster of devices, i.e. audio and visual equipment such as TVs, DVD players, MP3 players, gaming devices and home theater devices such as high end displays and DVRs. Another step in networking the home is home automation, i.e. being able to monitor temperature, security and white goods from a central location. Promising home wireless technologies include Wi-Fi, UWB (Ultra- Wideband), Zigbee (the core technology behind IEEE 802.15.4), wireless 1394, and mesh networking technology.

For the purpose of rapid data transmission across LANs, IEEE 802.11b has gained the hearts and minds of many residential end-users. 802.11b, now in its third year of market shipments, has wowed the home market, pushing HomeRF squarely out of the picture. Low end networking vendors were quick to enter the 802.11b market, bringing with their efforts the two most important features of a home networking technology: (1) low cost and (2) easy configuration. Although the easy configuration feature may be arguable in some cases, most of the low end networking equipment vendors are in their second or third generation of 802.11b products and, after being blasted in many user reviews for configuration difficulties, have improved on their software significantly. Also, now Microsoft, the software giant himself, has entered the home 802.11b hardware fray, citing its user-friendly software configuration layer as its main differentiator.

For the latest coverage of the dynamic home networking market from In-Stat/MDR, check out: http://www. instat.com/catalog/Ncatalog.asp?id=99.